Navigation at sea

Its all been downhill since DECCA went away
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endure

GCM
Merchant navy cadets are still taught to use paper charts and sextants. They form part of their exams.
 

endure

GCM
Like cadets are taught the Map and compass.
Yep, these newfangled GPS thingummybobs are all well and good, but ...
Not only are UK merch cadets trained to use paper and sextants, they're also trained to look out of the window regularly :wink:
 
"We don't use paper charts at all," Severn's captain, Commander Philip Harper, told your correspondent. Although a paper backup seems like a great idea, he continued, there are two main reasons why the Royal Navy no longer uses them: "One, we've never lost everything," said the captain, referring to the nightmare scenario of all WECDIS terminals simultaneously crashing or corrupting. "Two, we no longer have the skills to operate a paper chart."

Really? I find that hard to believe, it's not exactly rocket science. I assume he is joking.
 
... as an aside, I trained as a land surveyor before swapping to building surveying. My boss taught me navigation as a backup and because he thought I should know about it because he was an old school map-maker land surveyor. Always grateful to him for opening up another interest in life.
 
Like many on here I am a good and experienced O/S map reader so when I did the RYA Powerboat 2 course along with the basic navigation course I blythly assumed I'd have it cracked in no time.

I was wrong, those sea maps are strange things.
 

endure

GCM
Like many on here I am a good and experienced O/S map reader so when I did the RYA Powerboat 2 course along with the basic navigation course I blythly assumed I'd have it cracked in no time.

I was wrong, those sea maps charts are strange things.
FOC etc...
 

PhotEx

On ROPS
On ROPs
"We don't use paper charts at all," Severn's captain, Commander Philip Harper, told your correspondent. Although a paper backup seems like a great idea, he continued, there are two main reasons why the Royal Navy no longer uses them: "One, we've never lost everything," said the captain, referring to the nightmare scenario of all WECDIS terminals simultaneously crashing or corrupting. "Two, we no longer have the skills to operate a paper chart."

Really? I find that hard to believe, it's not exactly rocket science. I assume he is joking.


Unlike professional mariners, they always had a 'man' to do it for them…
 

Distilled

Clanker
I know El Reg isn't always everyone's favourite when it comes to military matters, but this looked interesting (to me at least):

Distilled Jnr is a Royal Fleet Auxiliary Officer, currently at sea. I sent him a link to the article and his reply was quite telling. "Maybe the RN doesn’t have the skills to navigate effectively on charts, but professional seafarers do!"
 
As far as I am aware, most RN vessels use an electronic navigation system. This has presented problems when Dip Clearance is granted to enter 'closed ports' and the host nation can't/won't share electronic charting, and provide (part of) a navigation chart that has to be delivered by hand to the ship.

Anyway, I'm alright when all the satellites come spinning out of orbit. Provided it isn't too cloudy. 1911 and still works rather well.
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Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Interesting one.

The difference between the RN and most merchant navy ships is that the RN goes everywhere. Your average merchant vessel (with a few exceptions, RFA being one) will spend its life doing the same route over and over again. The rubber dog shit run from Hong Kong for example, or the Dover to Calais route. Even cruise ships tend to follow the same route.

This means the RN needs to maintain a metric fuckton of navigational charts which is no easy job. Each chart must be manually updated every time a buoy moves or a new lighthouse is built or a new wreck appears. If you’re doing a global deployment you have to take hundreds of charts, both for the planned route and any unplanned routes that may get thrown at you along the way.

It used to be a senior AB’s job (me) to update these charts. This involved sitting in a dark little office below the bridge, reading a massive book that was delivered once a week and manually correcting all the charts.

Most of the time the books were delivered late so you’d get 4 or 5 weeks worth in a oner. You never ever caught up. It was also massively stressful knowing that if you missed a correction or hadn’t caught up in time, the ship could potentially run aground and it’d be your fault. A lot of weight on the shoulders of someone so junior.

It was a massively shit job but I got a special badge for doing it.

It’s all on a PC now and gets updated automatically.

Edited to add: I believe ships still carry a “get you home” folio of charts just in case WECDIS (the computer) goes tits up.
 
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bob231

War Hero
"We don't use paper charts at all," Severn's captain, Commander Philip Harper, told your correspondent. Although a paper backup seems like a great idea, he continued, there are two main reasons why the Royal Navy no longer uses them: "One, we've never lost everything," said the captain, referring to the nightmare scenario of all WECDIS terminals simultaneously crashing or corrupting. "Two, we no longer have the skills to operate a paper chart."

Really? I find that hard to believe, it's not exactly rocket science. I assume he is joking.
He's not entirely incorrect. Operation of paper charts is still on the syllabus at BRNC (all officers do it) but only Warfare officers gain experience of fixing at sea. However, rapid operation of a paper chart or transferring of one chart to the next would now stump most Bridge warchkeepers*, as everything is done electronically these days and practice isn't kept up.

*Uncharitably, one might say that this relates to their inclination to panic when faced with the unexpected, but doubtless this is an engineer's prejudiced view.

It’s all on a PC now and gets updated automatically.
For "automatically", read "by the Navigator with a bunch of CDs", at least as of less than a year ago**. Less stressful but still time-consuming, especially given the calibre of MOD IT.

Admittedly, also much closer to where responsibility ought to lie!

**You and I may have been on different classes of ship.
 

endure

GCM
Interesting one.

The difference between the RN and most merchant navy ships is that the RN goes everywhere. Your average merchant vessel (with a few exceptions, RFA being one) will spend its life doing the same route over and over again. The rubber dog shit run from Hong Kong for example, or the Dover to Calais route. Even cruise ships tend to follow the same route.

This means the RN needs to maintain a metric fuckton of navigational charts which is no easy job. Each chart must be manually updated every time a buoy moves or a new lighthouse is built or a new wreck appears. If you’re doing a global deployment you have to take hundreds of charts, both for the planned route and any unplanned routes that may get thrown at you along the way.

It used to be a senior AB’s job (me) to update these charts. This involved sitting in a dark little office below the bridge, reading a massive book that was delivered once a week and manually correcting all the charts.

Most of the time the books were delivered late so you’d get 4 or 5 weeks worth in a oner. You never ever caught up. It was also massively stressful knowing that if you missed a correction or hadn’t caught up in time, the ship could potentially run aground and it’d be your fault. A lot of weight on the shoulders of someone so junior.

It was a massively shit job but I got a special badge for doing it.

It’s all on a PC now and gets updated automatically.

Edited to add: I believe ships still carry a “get you home” folio of charts just in case WECDIS (the computer) goes tits up.

Every P&O ship I sailed on carried a full set of Admiralty charts and a full set of Admiralty Pilot volumes.

It was the second mate's job to do chart corrections and mine to do the ALRS corrections. It helped to pass the time during watches for both of us :wink:

The Admiralty Pilot volumes were a good read when I was doing the evening watch. Some of the entries and drawings dated back 100 years or more.
 

FORMER_FYRDMAN

LE
Book Reviewer
Interesting one.

The difference between the RN and most merchant navy ships is that the RN goes everywhere. Your average merchant vessel (with a few exceptions, RFA being one) will spend its life doing the same route over and over again. The rubber dog shit run from Hong Kong for example, or the Dover to Calais route. Even cruise ships tend to follow the same route.

This means the RN needs to maintain a metric fuckton of navigational charts which is no easy job. Each chart must be manually updated every time a buoy moves or a new lighthouse is built or a new wreck appears. If you’re doing a global deployment you have to take hundreds of charts, both for the planned route and any unplanned routes that may get thrown at you along the way.

It used to be a senior AB’s job (me) to update these charts. This involved sitting in a dark little office below the bridge, reading a massive book that was delivered once a week and manually correcting all the charts.

Most of the time the books were delivered late so you’d get 4 or 5 weeks worth in a oner. You never ever caught up. It was also massively stressful knowing that if you missed a correction or hadn’t caught up in time, the ship could potentially run aground and it’d be your fault. A lot of weight on the shoulders of someone so junior.

It was a massively shit job but I got a special badge for doing it.

It’s all on a PC now and gets updated automatically.

Edited to add: I believe ships still carry a “get you home” folio of charts just in case WECDIS (the computer) goes tits up.

A burdensome task which featured in 'The Gift Horse', which starred Trevor Howard raiding St Nazaire.


Back to navigation at sea, it looks pretty straightforward to me - it's generally flatish, the landmass pretty much stays put and a quick look at a Risk board tells you roughly where everything is. More importantly, there are no forests, hills, urban areas, churches with towers or steeples or borders with Eire to cause confusion. Is it really that difficult to stay on the blue bit if one isn't high on cocaine or scheming how to shag Sub-Lieutenant Foxy-Minx and not make headlines in The Sun?
 
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